You can improve your mental health with two natural chemicals that are naturally-produced. How can you produce these magic items that are said to be largely responsible for our mental health and emotional wellbeing? Through gardening! We always said it's good for you, and it's all because of the hormones that gardens help you to produce.
Getting outdoors is good for you in more ways than just one. If your spirits are feeling low on cloudy days, the garden makes for excellent therapy. And it's free. Try it. Spend just an hour raking leaves, pruning roses or tidying the lawn edges and you are bound to feel better. Watch your green waste bin, bag or compost heap fill and a sense of satisfaction will wash over your consciousness. It's a brain thing.
A recent survey discovered that 92 per cent of adults in the UK believe that gardening helps them to relax and de-stress. They agree that its a great way to lift the mood. Why?
Many people believe that we have largely lost touch with the soil. It appears that the human body is capable of producing happy chemicals when immersed in plants and sod. It has been found that people feel better when they get their fingers dirty too and a huge number of gardeners prefer to ditch the gloves so they can feel their way. Of course, gloves are essential when working with prickly garden beasts and heavy work.
There is a specific bacteria in soil called Mycobacterium vaccae which is said to trigger the release of serotonin in the human brain. This is a natural anti-depressant and lack of it can lead to depression. Serotonin is a form of neuro-transmitter and it helps to send messages from one area of the brain to another. This can affect mood, appetite, sleep, learning and social behaviour, amongst other things. It's a strong and powerful force that seems to control happiness, in simple terms. Oh, and owning a dog also seems to make people happy!
The natural chemical dopamine releases a feeling of euphoria, and it can be generated in the human brain by many different triggers. The harvest of food is one highly effective trigger and this can occur as the result of not only picking or digging up food, but even just seeing or smelling certain foods. It is implicated in addictions too and is strongly linked to impulsive behaviour. The secret seems to lie in training, or re-wiring, the brain to crave dopamine release from the garden. Then a person is likely to reinforce their gardening habit in order to release their heady reward. It is possible to train ourselves to crave something that is supremely healthy!
Dirt-deficiency in childhood, during this age of ultra-clean, hyper-hygienic habits, is said to be implicated in contributing to allergies, asthma and mental disorders, amongst other problems. Whats more, anti-bacterial products are also thought to be partly responsible for the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. Chemicals such as triclosan, which were used widely in soaps and toothpaste until a couple of years ago, have been found to cause bacteria to mutate. This is believed to have occurred because the substances are present in so many products at low concentrations. The bacterial resistance is passed genetically from one family of bacteria to another: a process which is thought to gradually lead to the formation of superbugs.
Basically, we have largely moved away from a life outdoors where a symbiotic relationship with nature wards off dark moods and helps balance the brains chemicals.
Start your winter the healthy way and set yourself up for life!
Fortunately, theres still plenty of work awaiting you in the garden during the winter months.
Heres an autumn checklist of tasks to make you feel like smiling:
Plant bare root trees shrubs and perennials, also container-grown plants. The soil is warm and they will have a chance to establish before the winter chill.
Trim your lawn edges or re-cut them using a half moon tool. They will look amazing!
Clean your mower and make sure its nice and dry before storing it for the winter.
Clear leaves off lawns using a lawn rake. They can be composted as they make excellent soil improver.
Wash off any slimy algae from paving and paths using a scrubbing brush or jet-washer to minimise the risk of slipping.
Cover your compost heap with a piece of old carpet. It maintains a healthy temperature which enables the rotting process to continue.
Prune down autumn-fruiting raspberries to ground level.
Use horticultural fleece to protect vulnerable plants outside. These include tree ferns and banana plants.
Its a great time to mulch beds, paying particular attention to slightly tender perennials such as Agapanthus.
Leave seed heads for the birds and lots of undergrowth to help provide shelter for minibeasts.
Take hardwood cuttings before the end of the year, for example, Cornus, vines and willow. They can root quite successfully in the open ground enjoy growing plants for free!
Most importantly, safeguard your mental health. You can start right away. You might be surprised just how much the emotional state of your brain impacts on everyday life.
Perfect Plants Ltd is an on-line supplier of garden plants, bulbs, house plants, garden equipment, furniture and gifts for all seasons, not just for Christmas